Exemptions and Probations Spare Corrupt Officials

By Lin Yuguo, Central News Agency
August 8, 2006 12:00 am Last Updated: August 8, 2006 12:00 am

CHINA—Chinese are often shocked when corrupt officials are arrested. However, 80 percent of the arrested officials are released on probation without being incarcerated. The judicial system in China has acute problems.

The Hong Kong based South China Morning Post reported that there is a huge increase in exemption and probation rates among officials who have committed crimes connected with their official duties. It has drawn the attention of the procuratorial department.

The report quoted the official Jiancha Ribao (Procuratorial Daily) as stating that courts granting exemption and probation for malpractice and tort cases has increased from 52 percent in 2001 to 82 percent in 2005.

According to China's criminal laws, a person can be sued if he extorts over 5,000 yuan (approximately US$618). For bribery over a 100,00 yuan, one can be sentenced to 10 years or more in prison, and in serious cases, one can receive the death penalty.

From 2003 to 2005, there were 33,519 officials accused of work-related crimes who received probation, which is an average of 52 percent per year: a lot higher than the 19 percent probation rate in cases investigated by public security departments. This high rate of probation and exemption accentuates the prestige enjoyed by officials and diminishes the effectiveness of combating corruption in the nation.

What is more, some officials who were found guilty of bribery, malpractice, and tort, are able to keep their jobs after they received exemption or probation. Hence, although they are removed from the official post, they still work in the same organization and enjoy the same pay and benefits.

Chen Guangzhong, a professor from the China University of Political Science and Law who specializes in the code of criminal procedure, said that the accused are mostly government officials. They have many social connections established through political power that are hard to severe, even though they are imprisoned. The families of these officials can use their connections to put pressure on judicial departments.

Zhou Guangquan, Vice Director at the College of Law in Tsinghua University and a renowned criminal law professor, said that large numbers of offenders in these types of crimes receive exemption and probation, which is unethical and in conflict with the basic principles of law and justice.